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A worker refills oxygen cylinders at a factory in Taji district north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, before delivering them to hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic

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Tajik leader says country has no virus but urges precautions

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Jan 26 – Tajikistan’s authoritarian leader Emomali Rakhmon said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic had ended in his impoverished Central Asian country but warned citizens to remain vigilant.

The poorest country in the former Soviet Union has officially recorded just over a dozen new coronavirus cases and no deaths since the start of the year, but health experts have cast doubt over the statistics and testing is not widespread.

Official data has for more than two weeks shown 13,308 infections with 90 deaths and 13,218 recoveries — figures that suggest no active cases. 

“We can say with confidence that there is no coronavirus in Tajikistan,” Rakhmon said in an address to parliament.

“We shouldn’t relax and forget about the rules of personal and public hygiene,” the 68-year-old president cautioned. 

“If we open more flights, people will come to us. Therefore, everyone who enters the republic, including our citizens, must be in quarantine under the supervision of family doctors at home for a period of 14 days.”

The government was late to declare any virus cases last year, announcing 15 infections April 30 just as a World Health Organization delegation prepared to fly out to the republic to review the pandemic response.  

Mosques are set to reopen in the majority Muslim country of 9.5 million people next week after a nine-month closure. 

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Turkmenistan, another Central Asian country, has also continued to insist it is coronavirus-free, despite a British ambassador saying he contracted the disease while he was in the country and a Turkish diplomat stationed there reportedly dying from coronavirus-related complications

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